Thursday, 5 June 2014

One Year On....

My own D-Day - One year on.

On June 5th, 2013, I awoke with an odd feeling.  It was like I wasn't totally there, not completely with it. It had been a restless night, drifting in and out of sleep, vivid dreams that didn't quite end, but really - same old, same old.  Up.  Dressed. Off to work filled with pervasive questions of when.  When would be too much?  When would it all just stop? Could it keep going like this? Will I just die?  - Now I know those thoughts, especially the last one, are big alarms, but at the time they seemed as normal as the constant grind of work. 

At work, it occurred to me that today would likely be the day I died.  I hadn't questioned this thought, it just seemed to embed itself as a total truth in my head.  I started finishing off some assessment marking, thinking it would be untidy to leave the last four not done.  Seems bizarre and laughable now, but at no stage did the thought "Don't be ridiculous..." occur.  As the kids rolled in and I saw them sitting, reading, readying for the day I just seemed to crash.  They call them severe panic attacks, but it didn't seem panicky.  I just didn't want the kids to see me die.  I wanted to be with Degs.  A lot of what followed seems unreal, and just trying to recall it makes me weep quietly.  I was escorted home, and it was indeed the beginning of the end of my teaching life anyway.

Over the following months, it felt like an amplified version of what happens to all teachers and school staff once a holiday arrives.  Your body seemed to be holding off on illness and repair and you suddenly get the worst cold, or a bad bug of some sort.  My health in general plummeted - my long suffering tummy was dreadful, I had migraines every couple of days, my limbs ached, I couldn't walk due to pain in my feet, weakness and dizziness when I stood up.  I coudn't even think straight, it was like wading through mud. People spoke to me but not a lot of it went in...

Blood tests galore and lots of doctor time came up with hyperthyroidism, pernicious anaemia, anxiety, plantar faciitus, and finally after 7 months, in November, they diagnosed Coeliacs Disease. This last one was likely the root of all the others, and had been building up the other problems for 10 years or so.  10 years of my gut not doing its job.  Not absorbing medications, or essential vitamins like iron, B12, follic acid and vit D. 

Now I think people are aware of Heart Issues (Watch your Cholesterol) and Lung Issues (Don't Smoke) and even liver (watch your alcohol intake) and possibly Diabetes (watch your sugars!!) but I'm not so sure people are as aware of the gut and its impact on your whole body health. That's likely because it has a much lower profile in healthcare.  In my case I was able to be sent for a gut biopsy in 2003, have them find some early indications and recommend blood tests, and that be totally glossed over by my GP because it was low priority.  But ten years of living with it means my chances of developing bowel cancer or lymphoma have at least doubled, along with increased chance of osteoporosis, and other food intolerances, and a generally compromised immune system. I'm due gut biopsies every two years now to keep on top of it, which is good.

For me now, looking back, the pieces all fit.  The history I have of depression, anxiety and fatigue wasn't linked to anything else by GPs , but it seems highly likely that it was at least exaserbated by the low vitamins and poor thyroid performance.  However, antidepressants and counselling were the order of the day, and the docs had done their prescribed duty.

I hadn't intended to dwell so much on the past when I started to write, so I'm gonna leap forward to today.  Things are healing, slowly.  I'm so much happier these days.  And its real happiness, a contentedness that things will be alright after all.  My mind on the whole has been reset - I'm less likely to see doom and feel fear on a daily basis.  I go out more thanks to my lovely Edna - who is six months old today by the way!  Still get waves of anxiety all the time, but they are easily handled for the most part.  

Oddly, it sometimes feels like my physical health hasn't improved hugely.  Balance issues - yep.  Fatigue - yep, sometimes crippling.  Brain fog - Yep, though not all the time these days.  Stomach issues - yep, sometimes far more severe than before I changed my diet, as I'm more sensitive since giving up gluten. Also ever so slightly menopausal (very) to add to the mix.  I definitely can't physically do as much as I used to.  And yet I am healthier.  I've definitely put the brakes on, and am rolling down hill at a far more acceptable rate, as opposed to hurtling down towards an early grave like I was before.

And why? Well, what I can do these days is live.  Live my life, breath, relax, love my family, enjoy my days, feel content.   Got a ways to go I think, but I have space for the improvements to happen.  

So to sum up - feeling better, living better, loving better. - Thanks to all for the support, especially Degs, Rob, Sally and Edna - my personal emergency services.  :)  Onwards and upwards, eh!

June 5th, 2014 xx

Thursday, 9 January 2014

Saving Mrs Connolly

God I'm an overdramatic cow at times.  I blame it on the fact that I just finished watching Saving Mr Banks on the day that I paid off my mortgage, and just three weeks after being dismissed from my job on medical grounds.

I feel slightly melancholy about having become Mortgage Free in the circumstances.  At what cost, I ask.   I mean, I know to the penny the monetary cost, and I worked for every bloody bit, yet more and more I drift towards thinking about the real cost, and whether its already too late and cost me way too much.

OK, that is utter maudlin crap, but it's the kind of crap that I should explore and exorcise before getting on with life.

No one likes working for a living - or do they?  I know loads who do, actually.  Studies show that to work, ie to occupy yourself in an effort other than just eating, drinking and living our lives, regardless of payment for such, is our natural state.  Its often shown that losing employment or retiring can be devastating, and is always life changing.  In most though the need to leave work at work and live a little is becoming an issue. Ironically, working is a big issue.

The nature of our working lives is ever changing, but I'd say that en masse, and in most jobs, it's certainly under more scrutiny and as a result, more stressful than it used to be.  Ask anyone about whether the monitoring and evaluation of their job has changed over the last decade, and their reply will be an affirmative and weary one.  It's a fact that everywhere we turn people are working in smaller and smaller micro managed bubbles.  Bubbles with smaller and smaller spaces for any freedom of thought or deviation from the needs of the employer.  Now, I get that ultimately we as employees serve the needs of the employer, but I'm wondering if anyone is keeping any track of the cost to the employees - on a truly massive scale - of this very single minded approach.

The world of work has obviously heeded the growing cries from employees about this trend towards the micro managed workplace and its detrimental effects.  Hence the bollocks about Work/Life Balance often spouted by the uppers when the lowers moan.  The scariest thing about WLB initiatives is the fact that they are spreading their micro management virus into our lives.  They talk about agreeing that life balance is important, and as employers they then try to dictate how that life might be more effectively managed so that it doesn't (heaven forfend) impinge on your work.  And since they now want to be a part of  ensuring a good Work Life Balance, they think that includes lording it over stuff that is in the Life section in the same way they lord it over the Work Section.  Stuff like what you write on social networks in your free time is under scrutiny.  How you deal with illness is totally governed by work regulations.  Time out of work is meted out at precise levels for the likes of funerals, childcare, moving house, giving birth...   Where there once may have been give and take on a fluid level between employer and employee, its become more entangled and bitter than a bad divorce, with each side snatching at every petty point, and trust totally destroyed on both sides.

The toll that this micro managed working life has on people is going to come home to roost at some point.  It has to.  It surely cannot continue the way it is, robbing people of a meaningful existence outside of their work, and leaving them with physical and mental work wounds that continue to cripple long after the work is done.

I'm lucky.  Really bloody lucky.  My work wounds hit me early enough to make me realise I was in danger.  I'm still unsure whether I got out in time, a bit like not really knowing how much radiation you were exposed to, or how much of the damage will be serious, life threatening, long term, whatever (Told you I was dramatic...)

What has this got to do with Saving Mr Banks, or the price of bread, I hear you thinking - well the film isn't so much about the struggle to bring Mary Poppins to the screen, as it is about how heart-breakingly often the world of work takes its pound of flesh, regardless of the consequences.  Maybe we all need some sort of saintly Mary Poppins to float down and save us - from letting work take too big a cut, from neglecting important things like our kids and family, from letting that bubble we work in suffocate everything else in our lives.

As I said, I am incredibly lucky to have popped the bubble and escaped, I feel, just in time.  I fear that others won't be so lucky though, and I truly hope this nasty micro managed trend plateaus and starts to fall away soon.  Cos its a major shitter.

Daiz xx

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Oooh hark at me, I've taken down a bloody giraffe!!

So, at the weekend I was walking about amongst the ordinary folk like you do.  It was pretty chilly and wet,  so folk were wearing an array of coats and macs as would be appropriate.  I spotted one woman wearing an amazing item to protect her from the weathers.  A lovely faux fur animal print coat.  I'm pretty certain on the Faux bit, since it was shades of purple and pink.

Minds wander though, and my thoughts turned to the whole furs thing.  Some furs had a lot of kudos attached I'm sure, in the days pre Gok Wan but peri Ugg the Caveman.  Those were the days, eh.  When you walked proudly down the street, or worn established pathways, showing off your coat.  Not your Up Yer Own Arse labels from some trendy boutique, but a cloak of critters to show the world your prowess.  It might be a big ass bear, or some tiger you did away with.  I can see how furs continue to be status symbols, with echoes of those warriors who truly conquered what they wore.

So picture that same coat I saw being shown off all those years ago, round Ugg's fire...

"Took that down yerself did you, mate?"   (smirks)
"Yup.  You like?  Bloody warm..."
"Errr OKay... Great.  Really shows your ahhh your hunting skills..." (hiding sniggers)
"Mhmmm. Ok What are you getting at?  Come on, I can see you sniggering..."
"Nothing.  Nothing, its a fabulous er... Giraffe coat."
" Yeah, damn straight..."
" Did it put up much of a fight?"( laughter rippled around the fire)
"Ohhh I get it, Yep I see, because you have your scary Tiger coat and Barry has his Polar Bear coat and you think you are better than me because I took out a giraffe."
"Well...  its just... its not a very savage beast really is it, you know...  How did you get it?  (Pause) Did you just trip the bugger up?"

Anyway, my reaction to the ladies Giraffe print coat was much the same as it might have been long ago - who the cock wears a giraffe print coat where people can see it?  And to add insult to injury, a purple and pink bloody giraffe print coat.  So not only did you take out a giraffe, it was a cartoon motherfucker in shades of mauve!!!  The primal caveman in me wanted to smack her over the head with a club and drag her to a dustbin...

I didn't.  I just smirked to meself.   And did the voice in my head...  "Oooh hark at me, I've taken down a bloody  giraffe!"

Daiz XX